-Z- (z@gundam.com)
Wed, 24 Jan 2001 14:36:34 -0800


> I agree.. The gundam apparently was supposed to be a human sized SUIT! I
> think mechs like Madox 01, Gasaraki and Votoms make more sense.. And I
> think those would be larger sized mechs.. I think mobile armors and
> outlaw star style ships make more sense for space.. Why need legs??
> Actually the Ball would make the most sense for a personal mobile
> weapon.. Actually the govt is working on exoskeletal technology
> development for our soldiers. They want soldiers to carry larger weapons
> and be able to move quicker in terrain and well as being protected by
> armor.. Actually this sounds more like a hard suit or ironman to me...I
> think with micro technology and genetics and other sciences we are going
> to terraform more than building colonies.. The manpower in volved would
> be tremendous.. I think its much more feasible to terraform mars in
> hundred years than to build a Rama sized cylinder.. Look how troublesome
> it is to build our outdated freedom station... I doubt it could be
> economically feasible or desirable to build a cylinder.. I think it would
> be easier to build generators on mars to make a habitable atmosphere than
> to start from scratch..
>
> So "Z" what do you think??

I think that the future isn't what it used to be. (^_^);;

Seriously, most visions of the future are projections of the present day in a
sort of "if this goes on" mode. Star Trek's Federation was a forward projection
of the 1960s United States, with the Klingons as the Soviet Union and the
Romulans as the Communist Chinese, set against an SF trope that has its basis in
the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forrester, in which a single ship
represents the entire nation that dispatched it on missions of explorations,
diplomacy and, if necessary, military intervention.

Gundam was originally cast as a Giant Robot because that was the anime currency
of the time. Its more dramatic bent, centering the story on the characters and
making the mecha no more than mere vehicles in the most literal sense, paved the
way for the more realistic shows that you cite. Were it to be done today and
done from scratch, without the two-decade legacy, it would probably be more
similar to Cowboy Bebop or Patlabor than to Votoms or Gasaraki, if only because
a certain degree of whimsy and self-parody have always been a part of any Tomino
production. MADOX-01 is a good comparison, as that was a send-up of mech shows,
with the machine being co-opted by a totally clueless person who wanted nothing
more than to impress a girlfriend. In a Tomino production, that kid would grow
up hard and fast and eventually become a truer warrior than the one originally
entrusted with the machine, because he'd be fighting for that girlfriend and his
old neighborhood, not just because it was his duty.

As to the space colonies, upon which you were really asking me to comment, again
the design of the colonies is dependent on when and by whom they were being
designed. I think that O'Neill was one of the greatest snake-oil salesmen of
all time -- or, rather, would've been had he actually gotten what he wanted.
You see, he had no real interest in building space colonies. What he wanted was
to end American dependence on foreign petroleum by switching over to solar
power, in the form of Solar Power Station Satellites (SPSS) in geosynchronous
Earth orbit (GEO). He came up with the idea of the "High Frontier" -- which was
less a frontier than a plan for suburbia in space -- as a lofty goal to be
reached, the first step of which was to build the SPSS.

Island Three, the giant cylinder that would house millions, was the end of a
long, long process. The design that he was trying to sell Congress as the
achievable first step toward that end was Island One, a modest 500-meter sphere
with a toroidal array of greenhouses on either pole. This structure, which was
still large enough to hold the Queen Elizabeth II and the Hindenburg zeppelin
side-by-side, would house 10,000 people in Earth-like conditions that would be
considered idyllic, if a bit cramped, by most. It would certainly be far more
comfortable than the sterile tin cans proposed by Von Braun and Arthur C. Clarke
a decade earlier. Still, the Space Islands were the carrot to entice Congress
to fund the construction of the SPSS, which would not only be the first step
outward but, not coincidentally, also solve America's electrical energy problems
for the foreseeable future.

O'Neill didn't even originate the Island One design. It was based on a design
proposed by J. Desmond Bernal in 1929 -- about the time that the Buck Rogers In
The 25th Century comic strip was first published. It was considered almost
impossibly large at the time of its conception, but was merely grandiose by the
time O'Neill proposed High Frontier.

In any case, terraforming has its drawbacks -- we can't even control our own
relatively benign environment, so how can we hope to create and control
something even remotely similar on a distant alien world? I doubt we could even
control the weather in the tiny (by cosmic standards) ecosystem of Island
Three -- Chaos Theory hadn't been fully developed when O'Neill proposed High
Frontier, so we still thought we could engineer a world the same way we could a
Swiss watch -- much less that of a planet. There's also the gravity well with
which to contend -- it takes a lot of energy to get off of a planet and an equal
amount to get down again. Once you're in orbit, it's more economical to stay up
there and expend only the energy necessary to match orbits.

Personally, I'd like to see something on the order of an orbital ring and
elevator system -- build enough Bernal spheres in GEO that you can link them all
together into a single continuous entity, then drop lifting cables down to the
Earth to move people and goods up and down.

In the end, it all comes back to building something like Island One as the first
step toward something much larger, grander and ultimately more rewarding.

I can live in a cramped little box without ever leaving home.

-Z-

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